Professor Stephen F. Cohen, distinguished historian of the Soviet Union and Russia, and courageous critic of United States foreign policy died on Sept. 18.
Professor Cohen was the author of many incisive books and articles. These include:
(A.) “Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution” (1971), which details the life of Nikolai Bukharin, a dedicated revolutionary and brilliant analyst of capitalist imperialism who was also the most plausible Communist alternative to Stalin (and was therefore murdered by Stalin’s minions)
(B.) “Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives” (2009), which argues that tyranny was not the inevitable fate of the Russian Revolution, explores alternative paths the Revolution could have taken, and shows how capitalist hostility helped sabotage these more attractive possibilities
(C.) “War With Russia?” (2019), which explains how and why we are embroiled in a new Cold War, and places main responsibility for this perilous state of affairs on Washington rather than Moscow
What elevated Professor Cohen above all recent historians studying the Soviet Union and Russia was his exemplary boldness, valor, progressive energy and public persona. Despite unending attacks, sneers and insults, Cohen continued his cogent but unpopular critique of Washington’s policy towards Russia until his dying day.
According to Cohen, the basic causes of the new Cold War with Russia are: the United States’ insistence on being the world’s only superpower, the associated denigration of Russia as an inconsequential second-rate nation and the expansion of NATO to the very borders of Russia.
In his last book “War With Russia?” — based largely upon his six-year participation on the “The John Batchelor Show” — Cohen argues that the new Cold War with Russia is even more dangerous and more likely to result in nuclear war than the original Cold War with the Soviet Union. He gives 10 reasons for this disturbing contention on pages 223-228.
Reason one: The political epicenter of the original Cold War was Berlin, which is relatively far away from Russia. The Soviet Bloc, which no longer exists, served as a buffer between NATO and the Soviet Union. The political epicenters of the new Cold War are the Baltic states, Georgia and the Ukraine, all of which lie on the immediate border of Russia.
Reason two: Proxy wars between Russia and the United in the new Cold War (e.g. wars in Georgia, Syria, Ukraine) are different and more explosive than the earlier proxy wars. The new proxy wars occur near the center of global geopolitics and often entail direct confrontation between Russian and U.S. military personnel.
Reason three: Vladimir Putin has been demonized longer and more ferociously than any Soviet leader, with the possible exception of Stalin. Most of the accusations against Putin have little validity.
Reason four: The so-called “Parity Principle” prevailed during the first Cold War. This principle posited that both sides had legitimate interests and both sides were partially culpable for the conflict. But Russia is regarded entirely responsible for the new Cold War, and the existence of Russian national interests is rarely acknowledged.
Reason five: During the first Cold War, certain rules of conduct developed which aimed at preventing war between the superpowers. These rules encouraged a certain degree of cooperation between the antagonists, and eventually led to a vital system of arms control. The new Cold War has shredded these rules of conduct, and the arms control system is rapidly being demolished.
Reason six: Russiagate allegations have severely compromised the current American president, who is widely considered an agent or stooge of the Kremlin. Consequently, liberals are reluctant to critique even blatant U.S. misconduct for fear of appearing Trump and/or Putin apologists.
Reason seven: The mainstream media are thoroughly committed to the orthodox anti-Russian narrative and tolerate virtually no dissent. The modest but important window for opposition available during the original Cold War has been slammed shut.
Reason eight: In contrast to the situation 50 years ago, there is no significant mainstream opposition to United States enactment of the new Cold War. No significant opposition exists in universities, nor in Congress, nor in the major political parties, nor among the grassroots.
Reason nine: The mistaken belief that Russia is weak, fragile and unstable has wide currency among U.S. political elites. This implies that Russia will capitulate to sufficient political and economic pressure. It encourages an aggressive and extremely perilous foreign policy.
Reason 10: Certain television broadcasts in both Russia and the United States encourage a warlike hysteria that could easily induce military combat and the use of nuclear weapons. When asked which media complex is most obnoxious, Cohen responded with the venerable Russian witticism: “Both are the worst.”